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- A Fascinating Traitor - 5/66 -
"Well, then, Anstruther, we may meet again on the line of the Indus," said Hawke, with his lofty air. "I have always preferred the secret service to mere routine campaigning, for, really, the waiting spoils the fighting! Poor Louis Cavagnari! He confirmed my taste for silent and outside work! I was sent out from Cabul by him as private messenger just before that cruel massacre, a faux pas, which I vainly predicted. He taught me to play ecarte, by the way!"
"Then he was a good teacher, and you--a devilish apt scholar!" laughed Anstruther, as he politely held the door open for the man who had coldly fleeced him.
Alan Hawke's pulses were now bounding with the thrill of his unlooked-for harvest! He experienced a certain pride in his marvelous skill, and, restraining himself, he soberly paced along the corridor. The excited aid-de-camp stood for a moment with his foot on the stair, and then slowly descended. "He suspects nothing!" the amatory youth murmured, as he passed out upon the broad Quai du Leman.
He walked swiftly along, gayly whistling "Donna e Mobile," with certain private variations of his own, until he reached the splendid monument erected to the miserly old Duke of Brunswick, who showered his scraped-up millions upon an alien city, to spite his own fat-witted Brunswickers, and so escaped the blood-fleshed talons of the hungry-Prussian eagle.
Duke Charles I hovered amiably in the air, over a comfortable carriage wherein the "other little matters" were most temptingly materialized in the person of a lovely woman waiting there with burning eyes, her splendid face veiled in a black Spanish lace scarf. It was the old fate--"Unlucky at cards, lucky in love!" The staff officer's abrupt command to "drive everywhere, anywhere," until "further orders," was implicitly obeyed by the stolid cabby, who set off at once for a long round of the mild "lions" of fair Geneva, nestling there by the shimmering lake.
The click of the horses' feet upon the deserted roadway kept time to the murmurs of a most coy Delilah, who molded as wax in her slender hands the ardent military Samson, who was all unmindful of his flowing locks! And the silent moon shimmered down upon the waste of waters!
Alan Hawke was seated for an hour alone in his room, enjoying the cigars offered up by the "Universal Provider," who had yielded up so liberally. The strong brandy and soda had at last restored his shaken nerves, for he had played with his life staked upon the outcome! He then grimly counted up his winnings. "Four-hundred and eighty-eight good pounds! That will take me back to Delhi in very good shape," he soliloquized. "I wonder if there is anyway to get at that girl? If I mistake not, she will have a half a million! The old Commissioner always liked me, too. By God! If I could only get in between him and this baronetcy I might creep in on the girl's friendship! But the old curmudgeon keeps her locked up! Rather risky in India!" He leaned back, enjoying memories of the women with pulses of flame and hearts of glowing coal whom he had met in the days when he was "dead square." This strange woman! Who is she? What does she know?
He dozed off until the clattering return of the Misses Phemie and Genie Forbes, of Chicago, aroused him. His broad grin accentuated the easily overheard strident remark: "Say, Genie, I wish we had had those two English Lords at our opera supper. They are just jim-dandies, that's what!"
"As long as the world is full of such fools, I can afford to live," he pleasantly remarked, as he turned in. A new campaign was opening to him. Far away, up the shores of the moon-transfigured lake, a hot-headed young fool was showering kisses on the hand of a woman, who sweetly said: "Remember my conditions! Prove yourself my friend, and I will meet you in Paris! Now, take me home." Samson was shorn of his locks, and the delighted Alan Hawke found a little note slipped under his door in the morning.
AN OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE ALLIANCE.
When the now buoyant Major Alan Hawke was awakened by the golden lances of morning which shivered gayly upon the Pennine Alps he proceeded to a most leisurely toilet, having first satisfied himself that his winnings of the night before were not the baseless fabric of a dream. He smiled as he fingered the crisp, clean notes, and gazed lovingly upon the dingy-looking but potent check drawn on the old army bankers.
"No nonsense about that signature," he cheerfully said. "Anstruther is no welsher," and, as he rang for his hot water and a morning refresher, he picked up the little note with an eager curiosity.
"By Gad! she is a cool one! This is no vulgar darned occasion! I need all my wits to-day!" He was studying over the brief words when the ready waiter took his order for a cosy breakfast. He had deliberately moved out all his lines to an easy comfort, throwing out a line of pickets against any appearance of social shabbiness. "She said that she had money," he murmured, as he read the note again. "What the devil does she want, then, if she has all the money she needs! Perhaps some discarded mistress! Bah! The old man's heart is as hollow as a sentrybox, and, besides, he has not been in Europe for nearly twenty years. Ah, I see! Perhaps a bit of blackmail--some early indiscretion! She did speak about the girl! Then I must be the silent partner of her future harvest! She probably needs a man's arm to reach the wary old Baronet in future. My lady writes in no uncertain tone."
He carefully folded the note and bestowed it safely with the spoil of the young patrician. "Of course I must show up," he said as he betook himself to his tub whence he emerged shapely as an Adonis with the corded torso of an athlete. The appetizing breakfast put the Major in excellent humor, and he drew forth his "sailing orders" as he lit his first cheroot. Seated in a window recess, he watched the hotel frontage, while he read the imperative lines again. They were explicit enough and had been dictated en reine. "Meet me at the Musee Rath, in the vestibule at two o'clock. He leaves here at one-thirty. Keep away from the hotel and avoid us both. Go up to Ferney and come back on the one o'clock boat."
There was a neat carte de visite in the inclosure.
"Now, I will wager that is not her name," he smiled as he read the Italian script.
"I can certainly now afford to throw a day or so away on her. At any rate, I will let her make the game. I must wait a day or so to send on the Grindlay check," the wanderer mused, smiling genially upon the head porter. Major Alan Hawke casually inquired, upon his leisurely descent, "My friend?"
"Ah, sir! Paid his bill and left. Luggage already sent to the station labeled 'Paris.'" Alan Hawke most liberally tipped the functionary. "I think I will take a run of a few days up to Lausanne or Chillon myself; the weather is delightful." He strolled over to the local Cook's Agency and sent his treasure-trove check on to London for collection.
"I think that I will fight shy of this sleepy burgh," he ruminated, as the little paddle-wheel steamer sped along toward Ferney, leaving behind a huge triangular wake carved in the pellucid waters. "It might be devilish awkward if Anstruther should find me here, hovering around his fair enslaver. I may need this golden youth again, in the days to come! He will be out of India for a couple of years, but I will not trust Fate blindly. What the old Harry can she be up to?" He suddenly burst into a merry peal of laughter, to the astonishment of the crowd of passengers.
"Fool that I am! I see it all now! Anstruther cleared out early! The proprieties of the home of Calvin must be respected! After he has adroitly pumped the intellectual fountain of the past dry, then a quiet little breakfast tete et tete will give Madame Louison the time to fool him to the top of his bent! The sly minx! Evidently she is cast for the 'ingenue' part in this little social drama! And her trump card is to hide from me what she extracts from our Lovelace by the coy use of those deuced fetching brown eyes and--other charms too numerous to mention! But you shall tell me all yet, Miss Sly Boots!" And the Major dreamed pleasant day dreams.
Life now seemed so different to the hopeful vaurien, with the physical and moral backing of the four hundred and odd pounds! "I was a fool--a damned fool, yesterday," he cheerfully ruminated. "If I only handle this woman rightly, then I may get the hold I want on this old recluse Johnstone, congested with the fat pickings of forty-five years. A close-mouthed old rat is he, and yet it seems that he is vulnerable after all. If he is playing fast and loose with the government he will never get his honors before he gives up the sleeping trust of the forgotten years."
Major Hawke vainly tried to follow the exuberant Anstruther in his incursion into the placid temple of Minerva, where that watchful spinster, Miss Euphrosyne Delande, eyed somewhat icily the handsome. young "Greek bearing gifts." Professional prudence and the memory of certain judiciously smothered escapades caused Miss Euphrosyne at first to retire within her moral breast works and draw up the sally-port bridge. For even in chilly Geneva, young hearts throb in nature's flooding lava passions, jealously bodiced in school-girl buckram and glacial swiss muslin. So it was very cool for a time in the august cavern of conference where Anson Anstruther, a bright Ithuriel, struggled with the cautious and covetous Swiss preceptress, and the swift steamer Chilian was far up the lake before Captain the victorious Honorable Anson Anstruther, sped away to the morning meeting with the woman who had seemed to lean down from the moon-lit skies upon her young Endymion in that starry night by the throbbing lake.
Major Alan Hawke, proceeding on his voyage, found a certain bitterness in the distant mental contemplation of Captain Anstruther's employment of his leisure till train time, not knowing that the young soldier's sense of duty led him first to dispatch several careful official dispatches, one to London, and the two others to Calcutta and Delhi, respectively. When Captain Anstruther finally deposited his mail with the head porter of the Grand Hotel National he deftly questioned
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